Faculty Support

Shifting Policy with Theodore M. Shaw

Carolina civil rights expert Theodore M. Shaw reflects on new federal clemency for marijuana possession

Carolina civil rights expert Theodore M. Shaw reflects on new federal clemency for marijuana possession

President Joseph Biden on Oct. 7, 2022, announced a mass pardon for those convicted of a federal crime for simple possession of marijuana — about 6,500 people.

Biden’s fulfillment of a 2020 campaign promise was seen as an attempt to redress harsh punishments for drug-related crimes that disproportionately impact people of color. Black people are 3.6 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite similar usage rates, according to an analysis conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Because of the racial disparities in how marijuana possession is prosecuted, The Well asked civil rights expert Theodore M. Shaw to answer questions related to the recent mass pardon. Shaw is the director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights and is the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law at the School of Law.

Reflecting on the importance of this mass pardon from a civil rights perspective, Shaw commented, “Some statistics have indicated that white people may even use marijuana and other drugs in slightly higher proportions than Black people, but the criminal justice apparatus isn’t put into effect when it comes to those kinds of violations for white people as often or to the same degree.”

Read the full Q&A with Theodore M. Shaw…Opens in new window

Readers Also Viewed...

John Spencer with his restored Purple Heart

Correcting the Record

Restoring the honors that were owed for a veteran’s service

Left, Uncle Jack and Aunt Cassie Cowell. Center, H. Bryan Ives III ’80. Right, Horace Bryan Ives Jr. 1942 senior class Yackety Yack photo

When Giving Is Personal

A 1938 gift continues to educate Carolina graduates

Fedders standing with her arms crossed smiling
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Partnering Against Oppression

Combining disciplines to combat systemic oppression

Jim and Frances Kerr

Supporting Civil Rights Work

A transformative gift from the Kerr family endows civil rights work at UNC School of Law.

Sarah Hoffman portrait

An Advocate for Mental Health

Hands-on clinic work at the UNC School of Law equipped Sarah Hoffman ’21 (J.D.) with skills to advocate for improved mental health resources in North Carolina prisons.

M. Scott Peeler and Diana Florence

Honoring A Pioneer In Law

M. Scott Peeler and Diana Florence continue their support of UNC School of Law with gifts to commemorate Sylvia X. Allen, the first Black woman to graduate from the school.